Saturday, June 10, 2006

Brammertz Report is a Bust: Syrians Relieved

The Brammertz 30-page report has come out and it is a dud - at least for those who were hoping to increase the pressure on Syria by having it brought in front of the Security Council for economic sanctions or further resolutions.

A PDF copy of it can be found here. There are a number of news articles on it as well. Here is Forbesand here is Reuters.

Who killed Hariri?

Brammertz said he has two hypotheses: that a small team acting on its own planned and conducted the entire attack itself, or that it took a larger, complex operation, with a large number of people performing smaller, very specific tasks.

Brammertz' predecessor as chief of the investigation, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, had said the killing's complexity suggested the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in Hariri's assassination. Yet Brammertz shied away from making any such claims.
This is important because Mehlis had accused only the Syrians and their Lebanese underlings. He supplied names of those he believed responsible, including Asef Shawkat, the Syrian President's brother-in-law. This accusation was built on the notion that the operation was so complex that only Syria could have carried it out. Brammertz does not say this was not the case, but neither does he confirm that only Syria should be a suspect, as Mehlis did in his two reports.

US policy, which is to keep raising the psychological, political, and economic pressure on Syria, just got a big "Khazouq," (the shaft) as my wife delicately put it. At first she suggested, "There must have been a deal. The report is too good." It was unlike the UN not to try to hurt Syria. When I argued against this interpretation, suggesting that Brammertz just doesn't have much to go on and that once he threw out the testimony of Hussam Hussam and Saddiq, which had so beguiled Mehlis, he discovered there just wasn't much evidence to point to Syria conclusively or to anyone else. "It was just an honest report," I argued. Her reply was: "Well then, maybe Bashar will learn a lesson from this." I asked, "What lesson is that?" She replied, "He needs to be more open and to cooperate with the UN and not lose friends such as France."

That is sound advice. All the same, a year ago Mehlis and France both were certain of Syria's authorship of the crime following Hariri's murder. They were gunning for the regime. It was not surprising that Bashar al-Asad would suspect that the there was little he could do to exonerate Syria and had to suspect the investigation was a set up.

Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., said American officials would have no immediate comment because they were still studying the 30-page report. What can they say? They will have to suggest that it is a good report that doesn't exonerate Syria and that Syria must comply with UN resolutions 1559, 1680, and the rest, pronto or else something very bad will happen.

The report is extremely short compared to those of Mehlis, Brammertz' predecessor. It is also very dry reading, unlike Mehlis' reports which read like spy novels and were full of sensational detail, much of which turned out to be supplied by witnesses who were later discredited.

Brammertz has continued in the careful, reserved, and cautious manner that has characterized his investigation from the beginning. He says he has made "considerable progress" in his probe of Hariri's assassination, and said most of his work could be wrapped up in several months, but he has welcomed Lebanon's request that the inquiry be extended for another year. France says it will support this. So has Kofi Annan. "This would provide a much needed sense of continuity and stability, guarantee progressive operations and planning, and offers assurances to staff," the report said.

Brammertz is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday - a day before his commission's mandate expires. "I share the view expressed by Mr. Brammertz and the Lebanese government that the commission should be provided with stability and predictability in its mandate and resources," Annan wrote.

Forbes writes that,
Brammertz' report gave the Security Council a rough outline of his investigation into the bombing that killed Hariri as his convoy moved through downtown Beirut.

According to the report, evidence collected so far suggested the bomb that killed Hariri was above ground and fit with earlier theories that it had been packed into a Mitsubishi truck whose demolished carcass was found at the scene.

There has been speculation in Lebanon that there was a possibility of two explosions - one underground and another in a truck - especially after Brammertz's team recently erected a huge tent at the scene of the killing and dug into the ground.

"Evidence collected from within the soil on the inside of the crater, indicates that the IED (improvised explosive device) was most likely located above the ground," the report said.
The report said there was no evidence to suggest that a man named Ahmed Abu Adass, who appeared on a video tape claiming responsibility, was in fact involved.

Addendum (June 11): Here is a comment I was sent from a respected analyst based in the region. He is correct that Syria remains the only suspect according the the various implied Brammertz scenarios. The question that cannot be answered today is whether the investigation has amassed enought evidence to convict Syrians in court. When Brammertz took over from Mehlis, there was not enough evidence.
I agree with much of what you say. Damascus is off the hook for the time being, but I think it is premature for Bashar & Co to pop the champagne corks. I suspect that Brammertz is deliberately avoiding mehlis' reveal-all style to avoid the pitfalls of unreliable witnesses, such as Hussam Hussam etc. Brammertz is building a case to take to court and I suspect that the final revelations will be made before the tribunal, not in the last UNIIIC report. There is nothing to suggest that Brammertz has deviated substantially from the broader direction that Mehlis initiated. The reference to "political motives, personal vendettas, financial circumstances, and extremist ideologies" being possible factors in the assassination still fits in with the motives attributable to the Syrian regime - political motives: Hariri was planning to weaken Syria's hold on Lebanon; personal vendettas: Lahoud, the Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies detested Hariri. It was the whispering campaign of Lahoud and his cronies that exacerbated Bashar's inherent distrust of Hariri; financial circumstances: many powerful Syrians and Lebanese stood to lose financially if RH and his allies rode to triumph in the May 2005 elections, overturning Syria's hold on Lebanon; extremist ideologies: the field is open wide here - Alawite distrust of an immensely powerful Sunni exerting a threatening influence over his Syrian co-confessionalists/Shiite distrust of an immensely powerful Sunni who could provide an obstacle to Iran's ambitions to further its influence in the Mideast/Salafi jihadis who hated Hariri and had no connection to Syria at all.

Many people who believe Syria is innocent of blame tend to look at Hariri's murder as an isolated event. But as you know, Hariri's death fitted into a pattern that had been unfolding since the early 1990s when the younger generation of the Syrian regime began asserting itself, and accelerated from 2000 when RH returned to the premiership before climaxing after Lahoud's presidential extension. Hariri's assassination needs to be scrutinised in the context of the other 14 bombings and assassinations before and after his death. While one could argue with greater or lesser degrees of conviction that Hariri's death could have been caused by Mossad/CIA/Al-Qaeda, the theories take on far less credence when analysed within the prevailing political environment before and after the assassination.


At 6/11/2006 12:22:00 AM, Blogger Alex said...


Manar's way of thinking is shared by most Syrians ... everyone I talked to so far felt rather frustrated as they tried to understand what kind of wishes, or directions the UN is getting from the United States and France... most do not believe that this is a straight forward, independent and professional investigation.

Brammerts' style, of course, was a major improvement from Mehlis and his show business drama and comedy show.

But I have to say that the whole investigation has been bizarre.. 18 months later they are still not sure if there was an underground explosion, or if a small group vs. a large group did the job, ...

What exactly do they know?

Of course, Brammertz might know much more than he is announcing, but to keep the Syrians comfortable cooperating with him he does not want to threaten them until he is done.

Few months ago I decided to give up predicting ... we will know when we finally know.

At 6/11/2006 03:56:00 AM, Blogger 10452 said...

And here comes apologist Landis with more far fetched excuses to keep his agenda alive.

Maybe you were sleeping in class at University and you missed out on the part called "technical report". This is a technical report, and noone was expecting much as far as pointing fingers from it.

The Syrians are cooperating for now, so why would he preempt the final bomb in a year's time? He'll keep the good news to himself, and will deliver a nice little gift to you Landis. But even then, you'll find more excuses. The Baath party should be very proud of you Landis, you are truly loyal.

At 6/11/2006 04:17:00 AM, Blogger Lira = 1500 said...


Let Landis and the Baathists relax, they will better cooperate.


At 6/11/2006 06:34:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

It's hard to concentrate on anything that isn't round and doesn't involve 22 players these days, yet I'd like to add some quick comments:

This is the way an UN investigation should be conducted: Brammertz is looking in all directions and at all possible explanations for the crime. As a result, his findings will have much more credibility in the end.

He doesn't rule out an Islamist background (as one of many possibilities):

Ahmed Abu Adass wasn't present at the crime scence, but the "Commission does not exclude the possibility that he was involved in other aspects of the operation beyond his participation in the making of the claim-of-responsibility video message" (§50, p.13).

"(The) Commission is investigating political motives, personal vendettas, financial circumstances, and extremist ideologies as well as any combination of the aforementioned in developing its hypotheses regarding the possible motives of those who commissioned the crime" (§54, p.14).

(my emphasis)

"57. The Commission is further examining the possibility of one single group, with a singular intent and capacity, having committed the crime. For example, the Commission continues to develop its knowledge concerning individuals who are, or who have been, in the custody of the Lebanese authorities, allegedly as members of terrorist groups."

This could be referring to the terrorist cell allegedly headed by Khaled Taha (though, to my knowledge, we still have no official statement regarding his links to the members of the group arrested in January).

Regarding the hypothesis of an underground explosion, I have to say that this never made much sense to me, even if we assume that the crime was perpetrated by an intelligence agency. The convoy could take three different routes, so what would have happened to the bomb underground had the convoy not passed there? The truck clearly had some role in the crime, and with such an amount of high explosives (more than 1,200 kg !), there was no need for a second explosion.

Regarding earlier Syrian non-cooperation with the Mehlis commission, I have to say that I fully understand that, given the bad experiences the Syrians had had with Mehlis in the past, well before he was appointed as head of the commission (for example at one point he had arranged the arrest one member of the wider Asad family in Vienna in order to put pressure on Syria in a different court case). The Syrians probably also weren't too fond of the idea of handing over their secret files directly to a foreign intelligence agency (in this case the BND, through the BND/BKA members of Mehlis' team), though I guess that it is realistic to assume that all files in the possession of UN commissions finally end up in the hands of different intelligence services...

At 6/11/2006 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/11/2006 10:53:00 AM, Blogger Zenobia of the East and West said...

No one is meant to KNOW for certain in the end, and the answers to who killed Rafic Hairiri will never be satisfactory, i think.

after much waiting and waiting.....
we may finally 'KNOW' only in the way we KNOW or still DON'T KNOW... exactly who was ultimately and truly responsible for the assassination of JFK!

At 6/11/2006 02:21:00 PM, Blogger Alex said...


On the one hand, these things are usually planned in a way that is not tracable to the real source, but Brammertz seems to think he will know and let us all know few months from now.

We'll see.

Whatever it is, I think the Medina Bank dirt will be part of it it seems.

At 6/11/2006 03:21:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

Any legal investigation, usually, takes 2-3 years, it is not surprising, this is not exoneration, it is 4-6 months delay, we know that underground theory may be dead, they think it is above ground explosion, which was very obvious from the begining, it was a waste of time, it is the price to pay to be scrupulous,Syria is still the only accused party, when time comes, Syria has to defend itself in court, my concern is, who will pay for syria defense, this will run close to 3-4 billion dollars,since it will include a team of 20 lawyers, at a cost of 250 dollar an hour each, we know lawyers has no budget. who will pay for the defense, Syrian budget will not tolerate such cost, God help syria.
this will be worse than sanction effect.

At 6/11/2006 05:47:00 PM, Blogger HARBOOK said...

I believe wholeheartedly that if syria is indeed called to defend itself, there must be a single line to tow. This means that there can only be a UN defense. For if the US is able to assasinate Iraqi leaders and occupy a country without recourse, the Syrians have the freedom of conscience to do it also. Syria must work doggedly to find a loophole in international law as pretense, instead of playing the weeping victim. Signing protocols and allowing continued interviews will only exacerbate eventuality. And if you think Syrian leaders have come upon this're dreaming in a darkening cloud.

At 6/11/2006 10:45:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Joshua , i wonder if the analyst in the reagin a Lebanese may be Micheal young ,the Lebanese will continue to blame Syria even if the UN find Israel resposible ,they will smell a deal between Syria and the US if Syria is not guilty,i wonder what Syria did to them to get all that hostility ,that usualy hapen if you stop a theif,is it posible that decreasing Syria,s forces in Lebanon to only 4000 at the time of the withdrowl made them worry about the relation jumblat and Harreri had with Kanaan and Khadam which was close to be discoverd.

At 6/11/2006 11:09:00 PM, Blogger Nafdik said...

Norman asks "i wonder what Syria did to them to get all that hostility".

Well basically the Syrian regime did to them what it did to the Syrian poeple. Killed, stole, humiliated, and destoryed their country.

To paraphrase, the Syrian government treated the Lebanse as well as they treated their own poeple, like shit.

The only difference is that Syrians hate the regime and the lebanese hate Syria.

At 6/12/2006 03:17:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Prof. Landis, you write:

"He is correct that Syria remains the only suspect according the the various implied Brammertz scenarios."

This is not true, IMHO. Please have another look at the report, particularly at the paragraphs highlighted by me above.

And even the respected analyst quoted by you doesn't agree with that interpretation:

"extremist ideologies: the field is open wide here - Alawite distrust of an immensely powerful Sunni exerting a threatening influence over his Syrian co-confessionalists/Shiite distrust of an immensely powerful Sunni who could provide an obstacle to Iran's ambitions to further its influence in the Mideast/Salafi jihadis who hated Hariri and had no connection to Syria at all."

(my emphasis)

So clearly Syria isn't the "only suspect", if the term "extremist ideologies" used in the report refers to "Salafi jihadis" with "no connection to Syria at all".

At 6/12/2006 11:45:00 AM, Blogger Fares said...

Trying a new way to help the country...
Bashar's Happy moments

For a better Syria

At 6/12/2006 10:30:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Signif other said that "half of Lebanon was in on the hit on Hariri". He was probably right.

At 6/13/2006 01:00:00 AM, Blogger souria el hora said...

Nafdik, I couldn't agree more,
The syrian people are blaming the syrian regime but the lebanese are blaming syria.
This is sooo true, and almost all Lebanese people i met HATE syrians without even knowing us.
And I guess we won't really know what is going on with Bramertz untill the end of the investigation, but I just hope people won't start giving up and loosing hope after all this period.

At 6/13/2006 02:56:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Possible Mossad link to some of the 14 bombings investigated by Brammertz?

"Security forces also said that Rafe' made substantial confessions, about a number of acts including the Sidon assassination and other bombings in southern Lebanon, Beirut and its southern suburb, particularly the assassination of Hezbollah official, Ali Saleh on the 2nd of August 2003. The Army intelligence preferred not to disclose information about other operations undertaken by Rafe', which could be related to the assassination of political figures following the February 14, 2005 assassination of Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri."

New information on an Israeli terror network in Lebanon raises questions on its relation to a series of assassinations

The assassination attempt on Elias Murr automatically comes to mind.

At 6/15/2006 03:41:00 AM, Blogger Andre said...

I agree with the writers that say Brammertz's style is much more reliable in the long run. Building a successful case is the most important thing to do here especially when the future of millions of people is at stake. To often a gun-ho approach is adopted to attach blame and take action, Iraq and its WMD's for example. Take your time Mr. Brammertz...explore all possibilites and arrive at the Tribunal with a solid case that if challenged, by whoever is implicated, will be hardpressed to prove otherwise. Of course there is always the need to bring closure to the family of those that lost their lives in February 2005. However, Im sure that they would agree that doing things properly is in the best interests of all concerned.


At 7/02/2006 10:44:00 PM, Blogger Yabroud said...

I found some one who is willing to screw Joshua landis in his ass.


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